Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church

I received my first AARP material in the mail six years ago.

I turned 61 years old two days ago. One of my sons says I am fossilized.

I am a senior adult.

Have I noticed any differences in my life at this age? Certainly. I move more slowly. My idea of a mini-marathon is running to the kitchen from the family room. I see things differently. I don’t know if I am wiser, but I certainly have different perspectives.

And I have to admit I view church life differently. In fact, I sometimes scare myself with my rigid attitude. I need to write these words quickly lest I become too comfortable or too complacent.

I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly.

  1. I pray I will not feel entitled because I am a key financial supporter in the church. This attitude means I consider the money my money rather than God’s money. That means I am giving with a begrudging heart.
  2. I pray I will not say “I’ve done my time” in the church. Ministry through the local church is not doing your time, like serving a prison sentence. It is an outpouring of joy and thanksgiving to God. I love those churches where senior adults are the most represented among the nursery workers. I need to be among them.
  3. I pray I will not be more enthused about recreational trips than ministry and service. There is nothing wrong about me getting on a bus and going to Branson, Missouri, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But there is something wrong when that is my dominant involvement in ministry in the church.
  4. I pray I will not be more concerned about my preferences than serving others. I’ve already blown it on this one. I did not like the volume of the music in the service at my church a few weeks ago. I complained about it to my wife. And then I was reminded of all the young people in the church that Sunday worshipping and praising God during the music. I was more concerned about my preference than seeing others worship God.
  5. I pray I will not have a critical spirit. I attended a business meeting of a large church some time ago. The total attendance at the meeting represented fewer than five percent of the worship attendance. One of the men who recognized me approached me before the meeting, “We come together at these business meetings to keep the pastor straight,” he told me. In reality, they came together to criticize the pastor and staff. I pray I will not become a perpetual critic. I don’t want to grow old and cranky; I want to grow old and more sanctified.

Now that I am a senior adult in my own right, I need to make certain I am not a stumbling block or a hindrance to health and growth in my church. I pray my attitude will be like that of Caleb:

“Here I am today, 85 years old . . . Now give me the hill country the Lord promised me on that day . . . Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised” (Joshua14:10-12, HCSB).

May the Lord grant me wisdom and service all the days of my life, including my senior years.

Let me hear from you. I bet I will.

Posted on July 18, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Betty Sevachko says on

    Thank you for these important thoughts on being a senior adult in God’s Kingdom. We are called to be a servant like Jesus was and to run the race set before us. I will read this often to remember to keep my eyes on Jesus and not self.

    God Bless You
    Betty Sevachko

    • Bless you as well, Betty.

      • La Joyce says on

        As an 80-year-old youngster I enjoy all praises that are sung to God. After all isn’t He the one we are to please. We have a young music minister (Still in his 50’s) and we sing all kinds of praises. If you just listen to what you seem to see as “new music” you will find that it is bible based and God centered, at times even more than the “old ” hymns.

        I am just so glad our churches main function I missions both at home and abroad. If my memory serves me, that was the commission we were given by Jesus in Matthew 20.

  • I’ve been receiving AARP material since I was 38, but to be fair, I think they got my name from the DOD after I retired from the Guard. At 52, this is a good preparatory list for me.

    With #1 – I would also add how it is spent. I have spoken to seniors who thought that the “restricted” in restricted accounts meant it had to just sit there and couldn’t be spent at all.

  • Stan Junkin says on

    Your points are Incredibly accurate. Embracing change without compromising the churches’ message and mission is what we should be about. Thanks for your insight.

  • Paul Sanders says on

    Wow! I could not agree more. I pray for grace continually to be loving and kind but firm with people of my generation. We are so selfish and feel entitled especially when it comes to church. Sometimes I think the corrosion of our brain cells causes us to say whatever critical comment comes to mind without thinking through the consequences. My the Lord take to heaven before I become that way.

  • I turned 69 last month. I’ll let you know how this works if I ever become a senior citizen. Until then, ear plugs help during some of the praise service. Just don’t forget to take them out for the sermon.

    • Love your attitude, George.

    • With you, George! And when my legs and back start to hurt from standing and repeating the same phrase over and over until I’m dizzy, I don’t complain, I just sit down! Someday the “now-so-steady-on-their-feet” will understand that I’m not being rebellious, just trying to keep from crying out loud in pain, or fainting…whichever comes first! LOL! (Which, if I did either, could be interpreted as “worshiping with abandon” by the most expressive worshipers! LOL!) But, thank the Lord, I can sing and worship sitting down just as well as I can standing up, and I like to see others worshiping in the way that suits them best…within reason, of course. I’ve been in many churches and I’ve never seen it get crazy yet. So, I’m good!

  • Michael says on

    Good post. I received my first AARP mailing last fall, at age 30!

    We recently moved to a new town, which meant finding a new church. I was frustrated when I was told by a few members that “new people” shouldn’t be leading in the church. Essentially, be seen and not heard until you’ve been here for an arbitrary amount of time. That attitude annoys me. I think a lot about the parable of the vineyard workers. Whether you’ve been there since the start of the day or just recently came, our reward is all the same. Stop making up rules to divide us.

    Every person, young or old, rich or poor, has something to offer. No matter how old we are, let’s stop looking for things that divide us and start working for the one thing that unites us!

    • Well said, Michael.

    • Eh, churches should be slow to let new people lead, no matter the age

      • Very good point Ed.

        It’s very difficult to remove someone who should not have been placed in the first place.
        Sometimes churches are so desperate to fill a spot with just a warm body, that the church fails to qualify them first. This can be the causes of a boat load of problems.

      • Right Hal. It divided our church until the church recognized what he had done.

    • Stephanie J says on

      I would like to counter that. I am currently in a church where new people are wanted to serve almost immediately if they’re willing (because #2) and we’ve dealt with issues of unqualified or immature Christians serving before they had been trained or their characters known. I agree that any waiting period shouldn’t be arbitrary time or a general sense of “you aren’t one of us yet” holding people back, but a predetermined-by-the-church time of getting-to-know-you isn’t a bad thing and can head off volunteer personnel issues.

  • Bryan Beyer says on

    So helpful. As into those years as well, that’s my prayer.

  • Not speaking as a senior adult, rather a Gen Y hovering near millennial, I would add a number 6:

    6. I will not stop sharing my thoughts and experiences. I will continue to offer the wisdom I have gained through the experiences I have lived. I have value and worth and am needed.

  • Cindy Petty says on

    I’d like to add: I won’t turn down an opportunity to help teach children because “I’ve done my time.” I will recognize that, as a senior adult, I can use teaching opportunities to be a surrogate grandparent to the young ones.

    • Good add, Cindy. Thank you.

      • A friend sent me your post. Yes, we are in that age bracket and I just wanted to say, “I thought it was a great article.” I know there are time’s I feel like stepping aside an letting others do the jobs. But then I am reminded of all God has done for me. I want to serve Him as long as I’m able, not because I have to but out of love.. And hopefully out of a thankful heart.

  • Franklin Montgomery says on

    Thank you so much, Thom. This article brings to light one of the dark secrets of the church. Many senior adults would rather see their church die than change. They are more concerned about themselves and their needs than the spiritual future of their grandchildren. I am a senior adult who is approaching 70. Everything you write is on target. I plan on sharing this with my fellow senior adults at church. In fact, I will see many of them shortly. In two hours, we will be boarding a bus to Branson.

    • Thank you so much, Franklin. Have a great trip!

    • Phil Hoover says on

      I’m not convinced many “olders adults would rather see their church die than to change.” I AM convinced that no one wants to feel “left out” or that they “don’t matter” when changes are discussed, decided or implemented. I recently heard this axiom:

      “If you want to go faster, travel alone. If you want to go farther, then go together…” I am in my mid-50s, and I feel the “sting” every Sunday morning when I walk in the sanctuary…I feel the hurt of the “older saints” who simply have been given the idea they no longer matter. I see them tithe faithfully, attend faithfully, and pray passionately. But I also see them ignored, for the most part. It troubles my heart more than I can describe.

      • Well said. Senior church members are often maligned because they don’t jump on the bandwagon of new ideas because they want to let the ideas sink in, pray about it and think of the ramifications to the whole church ministry.

  • As someone who is young but has seen a lot of regrettable things done by older people:

    Please do not rejoice when the young leave your church even if it results in your getting a church which looks like it did in 1950.
    Please speak up when the minister/speaker rails against the young.
    Please do not have such an issue with women pastors and speakers.
    Please attempt to understand the problems of the modern world that the young people are having to deal with.

    • Actually, older people tend to understand the problems of the world more than younger people realize. After all, they’ve been in this world a lot longer. My parents were older than most of my friends’ parents, and I used to think they were “out of step with the times.” The older I get, though, the more I realize how right they were about many things.

    • I do have an issue with female pastors cause the Bible says they are not to be in leadership positions but other than that I am ok with the other things you spoke of.

    • Marie Ugorek says on

      That last one can’t be said enough.

      Oh, and learn about social justice issues, food allergies, and things like that. Don’t assume, for example, that a person’s nonwhite-skin is an invitation to constantly brag about how your granddaughter has adopted a white baby, a black baby, and will probably adopt an “Oriental” baby next. There are SO many layers of wrong in that, all boiling down to an incredibly hurtful, paternalistic, obnoxious, distraction from the job that person was trying to do of coralling her three children who, because they were previously unchurched, have no idea what the rules at church are.

    • I am thrilled when we get new people into our church, and even more so when they take leadership positions. Our church has been infused with new blood, new ideas and new solutions, and whether it is my favorite solution or not, there is usually more than one way to do things. If I have learned anything in these almost-64 years, it is to be open to other suggestions and solutions. As to women pastors, we have one now and have had them before. And “Kris”- there were females during New Testament times that were in leadership positions… so I rejoice that we are open enough to embrace it.

  • Sure, you gave us the little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down by applying this to yourself, but this is really “5 Common Complaints Made About Older Christians”.

    Number 5 is kind of funny because your whole ministry here seems to be centered around one kind of criticism of another. You have the shine of leadership in your corner of American Christianity, so your words come off more as prophetic than critical to most, but it’s mostly just a matter of perspective. You have free license to be critical and complain about the state of the church, but you also seem to feel fit to revoke that license in others when you were fit by tagging them with a critical spirit, as complainers, or my favorite CAVE dwellers.

    Hopefully that can be enough to allow others to spend their time defending you and sneering at me, rather than accepting your invitation to blast their older brothers and sisters.

    • Good morning, Dallas! It’s been a few days since I’ve heard from you. Welcome back.

      • Hey, I’m a busy guy, what can I say. You can usually get my attention for one of these post Sunday invitations to complain though.

        Btw, you’re actually the same age as my dad, and he is a constant reminder that old isn’t nearly as old as I think it is, so hang in there.

      • Donald Burck says on

        Me thinks Dallas would not be happy if he were hung with a new rope. That is what my mother said when someone was to critical.

      • Scott Shaver says on

        Hang him with a new rope huh? Wonder if Ranier shares your sense of humor? I’m leaning toward a yes on that question.

        So you want to hang a guy for telling the spot-on truth about Raniers blind spots…very “Christian” of you.

        You’ve just helped Dallas validate his points. Congrats. I’m 58 and will just have to remain “critical” as long as this kind of diatribe remains daily fare from our so-called “leaders”.

      • Good morning! I too am 61-but don’t feel old at all. My husband is 67. Perhaps it is because we are new Christians ( gave ourselves to the lord only 2 years ago) that I font feel any of the things you write about. I feel like a sponge reading, learning, giving,praying. We love the volume of music- it allows my very bad voice to be hidden from the ears of others! And since my husband has a hearing loss he can actually enjoy the music. Perhaps there’s a lesson here: rather than becoming entrenched in the comfort of routine, recall when you were new and enthusiastic. I don’t know how long it will be before God calls me home, but I just can’t see myself becoming less excited to wake up on Sunday morning or community group night or my morning bible read or hearing my favorite song (until the next one plays and THATS my favorite don’t) on KLOVE. I’m a new creation, I smile all the time. I’m 61, so what???

      • Beautiful, thank you!

    • The difference is that Thom is criticizing those that are dividing the church, not those that are trying to lead it.

      • This is not something we are going to agree on, and frankly this post isn’t the most glaring example of it anyway, so I’ll be brief.

        There is a certain mindset to consolidate power within a head other than Christ that I feel is promoted here, and is at least as divisive as a grumpy layperson, but also serves to disempower the body as a whole.

        Thom and I come from different worldviews when it comes to this matter I think, so there will be understandable disagreement.

        He is gracious enough to allow me to voice my opinion, which would not happen in many other places, so I am thankful for that.

      • Scott Shaver says on

        On the other hand, perhaps Ranier is the one “dividing” Southern Baptist Christians with the same brand of cultural Marxism being espoused by Russell Moore, Denny Burk, Alan Cross.

        Cross keeps crying “this has to stop” at the same time he’s unleashing barrels of digital ink for the purpose of fanning flames. Same thing with this article by Ranier.

        Church-house or out-house….hypocrisy stinks wherever its found.

    • A critical spirit is just complaining when you don’t get your way or you disagree with what is being said. It offers no help and seeks no solution.
      Thom is pointing out real problems and offering real solutions. This isn’t a critical spirit, it’s real support for the church. He has also helped me to know that I am not alone in ministry, during the dark days of battling the critics. Now that the critics are gone, we are experiencing unity, joy, and blessing from God. My church is much healthier today because of what we have learned from Thom.

      • Thank you for your kind words, Sean. Bless you and your church.

      • Thank-You for these five things As a senior tryng to serve and help with the mnistry I always feel that when we are singing the praise song “Make Me A Servant” I start thinking I’m already there. Look at me I can’t serve anymore, then I realize I need to get over t and start over serving. God Bless

    • WOW!!!! So funny how people perceive what you have said! To me this is a personal testimony of how God dealt with you on the changes that take place as We age and you shared with others who may have the same feelings if honest, thank you for sharing and for your honesty the judging is unmerrited another thing us Seniors have to endure. But God’s grace is sufficient God bless you!!!

    • Ron Prosise says on

      Thank you for these great insights, Thom! I wanted to share this link, but after reading the first harsh comment posted by a reader, I decided not to. I appreciate your kindness, but would be better to leave off such negative comments that add nothing? Sadly, it takes away from your excellent article. You could easily reply on a personal basis to such people as you did so graciously, and not have their reckless words do such damage (Proverbs 12:18).

      • It’s a fine line between openness and hijacking the blog. I could be wrong, but I err on the side of openness. Your points are well made, Ron.

    • Jim Herron says on

      I am now in that number, after 56 years in active ministry. It’s good to be reminded of these tendencies . I never want to “go there.”

    • I find myself at 56 years old. I have stage 4 non alcholic cirrhosis of the liver. I never thought of myself as being OLD. Because I am a follower of Christ this life on earth has driven home the fact that life is eternal. In the last couple of months i have understood more that God is always moving. It may not be how i want God to move in my life, yet it is the path that God has chosen for me and I accept it with open arms. I realize that it is no longer important how old people look at me. What is more important is how old God sees me to be on this earth. Some people would say I am 20 years old, yet God knows when I am going to die. Therefore through the eyes of God, I may be a 125 year old man in earthly years. It is comforting to me to know that when I take my last breath on Earth: I take my first breath in Heaven. To die as a believer no matter the age I transform into the last stage of eternal life. Dying a physical death is not the last stage of life. Where i spend eternity is the last stage of life.

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